Natalie Kelly: Enjoy spring break at an Alabama State Park and call your Senator

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Waterfall at Chewacla State Park new Auburn Alabama
Waterfall at Chewacla State Park in Auburn, AL.

With this year’s Spring Break season upon us here in Alabama, the thought of a week of rest and relaxation is a welcome idea at the end of winter’s cooler months. While others spend thousands of dollars and fly or drive hundreds of miles in search of the perfect Spring Break getaway, you and your family can indulge in a similar escape, right here within your state. This Spring Break, take advantage of Alabama’s beautiful weather to enjoy fun and adventure and build lasting memories, all while soaking up the natural beauty abundant in Alabama’s 17 State Parks.

From the lower Appalachian Mountains to the Gulf Coast, there is a State Park within easy driving range offering a great selection of many different adventures. Hikers can tackle more than 200 miles of various levels of trails located throughout the State Parks. Golfers can try their hand a number of different highly rated golf courses. Explore the massive cave at Cathedral Caverns, or simply lounge on the beaches of Gulf State Park or enjoy a phenomenal sunset atop of Mt. Cheaha. Get out on the way and catch some bass, crappie, or catfish in one of the lakes or creeks within Lakepoint, Guntersville or Wind Creek State Park.

The parks also offer a wide range of accommodations. Whether you want to rough it camping in the wilderness or enjoy the amenities at a hotel or lodge, there’s something for everyone. In fact, Alabama State Parks boast close to 2,300 campsites, more than 200 cabins and 350 resort hotel rooms.

Thanks to public and private partnerships from all around the state, many of the parks have opened a range of new and exciting attractions in recent years taking the outdoor experience well beyond simple camping, fishing, and hiking activities. Take a thrill ride while zip-lining at Gulf State Park’s Hummingbird Adventure Course, rent stand-up paddle-boards at many park locations, try your hand at wake boarding at Oak Mountain’s hydraulic wakeboard cable course, or take to one of the many award-winning biking trails within the park system.

What many people may not know is that our state parks generate most of their own funding each year. In recent years, Alabama State Parks have had to endure several crushing budget cuts. As a result, five parks were forced to close due to lack of funding. Many others had to be temporarily closed during the winter season including Rickwood Caverns and Cheaha State Park, both of which are set to reopen soon and return to full operation — just in time for spring break. To help ensure our State Parks remain the true gift they are and accessible the public all year long, I encourage you to frequent them often — the benefit is mutual.

One more thing, while you’re dreaming of that relaxing vacation, take a minute to call your state legislator to encourage a positive vote for Senator Clay Scofield’s SB260 that would allow all of us the right to vote to secure future funding for our parks. Scofield’s bill, which is currently making its way through the Legislature, is a proposed constitutional amendment to prohibit the transfer of any park funding to any other public account. If the bill passes, we will have the right to vote in November to prevent these devastating transfers.

To learn more about our State Parks, visit the Alabama Parks Partners website. Join the coalition of individuals, businesses, community groups, student, and all lovers of Alabama State Parks to help protect these state treasures. The coalition often sponsors talking sessions at parks across the state to share information vital to friends of Alabama Parks System. See updates on the website or visit the Facebook page for upcoming events.

We can’t wait to have you join us at the parks during this Spring Break — we promise you’ll discover one of your best vacations yet.

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Natalie Kelly is an Alabama’s State Parks Partners coalition steering committee member. She’s a passionate advocate for the environment, sustainable communities and social progress. As the founder and CEO of Sustain and the founder and publisher of MyGreenBirmingham.com and MyGreenMontgomery.com, she helps communities and businesses identify, strategize and champion sustainability initiatives and helps tell these stories of innovation and progress. Kelly was recently named one of the Birmingham Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40” professionals.

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